407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Lights... Camera... Action
Succesful Imteraction with the TV Media
Requires Preparation and Confidence

NJN interviewing in the field.
There are many different kinds of interviews: a reporter in the field on tape, the reporter in field live, the field news conference, and the more formal television studio interview. Each requires many of the same - and some different - preparation.

E ven the most experienced local government official, one who has granted dozens, perhaps hundreds of newspaper interviews, may experience a twinge of anxiety when the proposed interview is an on-camera encounter with a television news reporter.

A mayor who has prevailed in the political trenches may have the skills needed to build a successful campaign from the ground up. But even those with a high quotient of political courage and mettle occasionally find that it often isn't enough to calm the television interview jitters. As the old expression reminds us: "the camera never blinks." That alone can be sufficiently intimidating to bring the most skilled person to the brink of panic.



Effective communication of one's leadership persona to a viewing audience doesn't come easily and rarely comes naturally.

One asks: "How will I look? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they start asking questions about a topic I don't wish to discuss? Will this interview come back to haunt me in the next campaign?" Questions and doubts may race through one's mind, but they all have answers that can culminate in a successful interview experience.

Effective communication of one's leadership persona to a viewing audience doesn't come easily and rarely comes naturally. It's a skill set that must be honed, and not necessarily through trial-and-error.

The good news is that you're not alone if you experience an occasional twinge of self-doubt when confronted with the prospects of a TV news interview. Even world leaders and the global titans of business and industry have media and image consultants to guide them along the path to being able to deal successfully with television interviews.

It's infinetly better for one's image to accept the interview
It's infinitely better for one's image to accept the interview request, no matter how challenging the subject.
When that phone call comes and you're told that there's a television news van parked outside City Hall waiting foryour arrival, resist the urge to take a vacation day, or a meeting off-site, and meet the reporter as requested. It's infinitely better for one's image to accept the interview request, no mat- ter how challenging the subject. And, it's much preferable than having a reporter later in the day "live" outside City Hall intoning in dramatic tones "and the mayor refused our request for an interview."

So let's start with a few basics. As the interview approaches, whether it's in a few minutes or a few days, brush up on the subject matter. Do as much mental preparation as possible to be sure you're saturated with background information. The trick, of course, is to not become paralyzed by knowing too much about the topic. You want your answers to come easily and naturally and with the content clarity that makes your point in a reasonable amount of time.

Be natural You shouldn't worry about making your answers too brief or too long. Some public figures feel compelled to speak in sound bites to make it easy for the reporter, while others try to respond with as many words as they can physically utter in one long breath. Neither tactic is nec­essary. The best television interviews, for all concerned — reporters, public officials and viewers at home — are those in which the person responds clearly and confidently.

Dress for the venue Keeping in mind that television is a visual medium, it's always a good idea


The best television interviews, for all concerned - reporters, public officials and viewers at home - are those in which the person responds clearly and confidently.

to, as long as there's time to plan, to make sure one's attire fits the venue. Ideally, you don't want to be wearing a business suit out by the lake on the first day of Trout Season. Likewise, the strongest statement won't be conveyed if you're wearing a golf shirt in an "official" setting while discussing property tax relief.

Watch Your Body Language The one factor that makes television news so attractive is that it's a visual medium. When being interviewed, look at the reporter, not the camera. Remember that you're in a conversation with another person — not making a speech to an auditorium of constituents. Trust the camera person to handle the visuals and try your best not to think about the details of the production environment. Above all, resist the urge to turn to the camera and make a statement. That's the stuff of B movies and election night posturing, and it's not very flattering.

Practice at home Develop a sense of the-way "how you feel" looks on camera. If you're really concerned about your broadcast persona, set up a home video camera on a tripod and have a family member ask you interview questions. Study your presentation, and evaluate it based on your intended results. The secret is to marry your emotional perception of how you're projecting yourself, with the reality of the image on tape. The results are often surprising.

A quick summary of TV news interview reminders:

There are many different kinds of interviews: a reporter in the field on tape, the reporter in field live, the field news conference, and the more formal television studio interview. Each requires many of the same — and some different — preparations. If it's a one-on-one interview, ask the station contact, usually an assignment editor or producer, what story the reporter is working on and what they want to know.
  • Be prepared on the topic with key points committed to memory.
  • During the interview, look at the correspondent, not at the camera.
  • Don't feel you have to perform. Act naturally and speak confidently in your own conversational manner.
  • Television field interviews are edited; so don't be concerned in a taped interview about mis-speaking. Try your absolute best not to decline an interview request. If the topic is a sensitive or challenging one simply do the interview and answer the questions that you are able to within the context of the issue.

There are times when you may be appearing at a Legislative hearing, and the reporter pulls you


Do your best to accommodate the time-sensitive requests of a television reporter, since your inte3rview is most likely only one component of the story production cycle.

aside for your take on the topic being discussed. Be as conversational as you can, and try to relate local anecdotes, which may help the television viewer better understand the issue under discussion.

Time constraints on television news reporters are critical, much more so than they usually are for newspaper reporters. The packaging of a television news report is much more time and labor intensive than that of a newspaper or radio report. Do your best to accommodate the time-sensitive requests of a television reporter, since your interview is most likely only one compon NJLM - Lights...Action...Camera

407 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08618  (609)695-3481
 NJLM logo 

William G. Dressel Jr, Executive Director - Michael J. Darcey, CAE, Asst Executive Director

Lights... Camera... Action
Succesful Imteraction with the TV Media
Requires Preparation and Confidence

NJN interviewing in the field.
There are many different kinds of interviews: a reporter in the field on tape, the reporter in field live, the field news conference, and the more formal television studio interview. Each requires many of the same - and some different - preparation.

E ven the most experienced local government official, one who has granted dozens, perhaps hundreds of newspaper interviews, may experience a twinge of anxiety when the proposed interview is an on-camera encounter with a television news reporter.

A mayor who has prevailed in the political trenches may have the skills needed to build a successful campaign from the ground up. But even those with a high quotient of political courage and mettle occasionally find that it often isn't enough to calm the television interview jitters. As the old expression reminds us: "the camera never blinks." That alone can be sufficiently intimidating to bring the most skilled person to the brink of panic.



Effective communication of one's leadership persona to a viewing audience doesn't come easily and rarely comes naturally.

One asks: "How will I look? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they start asking questions about a topic I don't wish to discuss? Will this interview come back to haunt me in the next campaign?" Questions and doubts may race through one's mind, but they all have answers that can culminate in a successful interview experience.

Effective communication of one's leadership persona to a viewing audience doesn't come easily and rarely comes naturally. It's a skill set that must be honed, and not necessarily through trial-and-error.

The good news is that you're not alone if you experience an occasional twinge of self-doubt when confronted with the prospects of a TV news interview. Even world leaders and the global titans of business and industry have media and image consultants to guide them along the path to being able to deal successfully with television interviews.

It's infinetly better for one's image to accept the interview
It's infinitely better for one's image to accept the interview request, no matter how challenging the subject.
When that phone call comes and you're told that there's a television news van parked outside City Hall waiting foryour arrival, resist the urge to take a vacation day, or a meeting off-site, and meet the reporter as requested. It's infinitely better for one's image to accept the interview request, no mat- ter how challenging the subject. And, it's much preferable than having a reporter later in the day "live" outside City Hall intoning in dramatic tones "and the mayor refused our request for an interview."

So let's start with a few basics. As the interview approaches, whether it's in a few minutes or a few days, brush up on the subject matter. Do as much mental preparation as possible to be sure you're saturated with background information. The trick, of course, is to not become paralyzed by knowing too much about the topic. You want your answers to come easily and naturally and with the content clarity that makes your point in a reasonable amount of time.

Be natural You shouldn't worry about making your answers too brief or too long. Some public figures feel compelled to speak in sound bites to make it easy for the reporter, while others try to respond with as many words as they can physically utter in one long breath. Neither tactic is nec­essary. The best television interviews, for all concerned — reporters, public officials and viewers at home — are those in which the person responds clearly and confidently.

Dress for the venue Keeping in mind that television is a visual medium, it's always a good idea


The best television interviews, for all concerned - reporters, public officials and viewers at home - are those in which the person responds clearly and confidently.

to, as long as there's time to plan, to make sure one's attire fits the venue. Ideally, you don't want to be wearing a business suit out by the lake on the first day of Trout Season. Likewise, the strongest statement won't be conveyed if you're wearing a golf shirt in an "official" setting while discussing property tax relief.

Watch Your Body Language The one factor that makes television news so attractive is that it's a visual medium. When being interviewed, look at the reporter, not the camera. Remember that you're in a conversation with another person — not making a speech to an auditorium of constituents. Trust the camera person to handle the visuals and try your best not to think about the details of the production environment. Above all, resist the urge to turn to the camera and make a statement. That's the stuff of B movies and election night posturing, and it's not very flattering.

Practice at home Develop a sense of the-way "how you feel" looks on camera. If you're really concerned about your broadcast persona, set up a home video camera on a tripod and have a family member ask you interview questions. Study your presentation, and evaluate it based on your intended results. The secret is to marry your emotional perception of how you're projecting yourself, with the reality of the image on tape. The results are often surprising.

A quick summary of TV news interview reminders:

There are many different kinds of interviews: a reporter in the field on tape, the reporter in field live, the field news conference, and the more formal television studio interview. Each requires many of the same — and some different — preparations. If it's a one-on-one interview, ask the station contact, usually an assignment editor or producer, what story the reporter is working on and what they want to know.
  • Be prepared on the topic with key points committed to memory.
  • During the interview, look at the correspondent, not at the camera.
  • Don't feel you have to perform. Act naturally and speak confidently in your own conversational manner.
  • Television field interviews are edited; so don't be concerned in a taped interview about mis-speaking. Try your absolute best not to decline an interview request. If the topic is a sensitive or challenging one simply do the interview and answer the questions that you are able to within the context of the issue.

There are times when you may be appearing at a Legislative hearing, and the reporter pulls you


Do your best to accommodate the time-sensitive requests of a television reporter, since your inte3rview is most likely only one component of the story production cycle.

aside for your take on the topic being discussed. Be as conversational as you can, and try to relate local anecdotes, which may help the television viewer better understand the issue under discussion.

Time constraints on television news reporters are critical, much more so than they usually are for newspaper reporters. The packaging of a television news report is much more time and labor intensive than that of a newspaper or radio report. Do your best to accommodate the time-sensitive requests of a television reporter, since your interview is most likely only one component of the story production cycle. There will likely be other interviews to travel to and conduct, video to illustrate the story will have to be gathered. Travel to various sites around the state is likely, before the reporter can even return to the broadcast center and begin to write the report.

The bottom line is that it's important to try to accommodate the schedule of the television journalist. The dividends returned in news coverage for yourself or your municipality will certainly merit the investment.

 

Feature Article in October 2004, New Jersey Municipalities